Luca Nichetto is one of the most sought-after designers in the world. Hardly any other designer stands for modern comfort like the Venetian residing in Stockholm. Now he has designed the “Liv” sofa system for Rolf Benz. We met him in his studio for this interview.
Fabian Peters: “Liv” was premièred at imm cologne 2020, a new sofa that you have designed for Rolf Benz. This name has a special significance for you doesn’t it?
Luca Nichetto: Absolutely! "Liv" is actually the name of my daughter. "Liv" also means "life” in Swedish. The name seemed especially appropriate because our sofa invites you to really live with it.
Rolf Benz introduced an ultra-modern sofa system last year with its "Addit" product by Werner Aisslinger. What are the company’s hopes for "Liv"?
Luca Nichetto: "Liv" should fit in with completely different user habits. Rolf Benz wanted a sofa system that works anywhere in the world and in almost every environment. In Scandinavia for example, sofas are traditionally relatively high, whereas in Italy people prefer them to be lower and more casual. Both should be represented by "Liv".
Was there something like an underlying concept with which you approached this challenging task?
Luca Nichetto: During the design, it was especially important for us to take full advantage of the strengths of Rolf Benz. We wanted to develop a modular system that combines German engineering skills with a touch of Italian design. In addition to the unbelievable quality of craftsmanship, we were especially fascinated by Rolf Benz’s ability to offer its customers almost every conceivable configuration of a piece of furniture. We’re familiar with this concept in the automotive industry perhaps, but I’ve never seen it with a producer of upholstered furniture before. I suspect that it’s unique worldwide.
"Liv" can be configured in virtually any size. Can the sofa in all its variations still create something like a uniform aesthetic effect?
Luca Nichetto: Above all, "Liv" should create a sense of lightness. The sofa should almost seem to float, nothing about it should be heavy or bulky. For me, the design was less about aesthetics and more about conveying a feeling. "Liv" should exude precisely the comfort that you feel when you sit on it, whether that’s as a seating landscape in a 200 m2 living room in a villa in Miami, or as a two-seater in a luxurious micro-apartment in Hong Kong.
Designing a sofa that’s equally at home on every continent and which can be delivered in an almost unlimited number of combinations – isn’t that "Mission Impossible"?
Luca Nichetto: Yes, it is a bit "Mission Impossible"! (Laughing) But as a designer, I’m always trying to create something that pleases people all over the world, and I think that’s a good ambition. After all, it pushes me to work as hard as I can to achieve my goals. I think that every designer needs this self-belief, the belief that they can create beauty for everyone. Ultimately that’s the point of my designs – irrespective of how many versions of them are available – that they reflect my personality, my experiences and my beliefs.
What is the significance of the technical and craftsman expertise at Rolf Benz for your design?
Luca Nichetto: This knowledge is one of the key requirements for our designs. We could only design certain details such as the legs and the metal frame in this way because we knew that the necessary expertise was available at Rolf Benz to produce such parts with maximum precision. For me, these elements clearly show typical German quality consciousness, which should be just as recognisable from "Liv" as the Italian designer’s characteristic style.
How important are colour and materials to you?
Luca Nichetto: The choice of colours and materials are central to my design process. I can’t imagine developing a design without having established these two points beforehand. For me, colours and materials are never interchangeable.
One of the most remarkable things about your designs is a distinct flair for colour. How did you develop the colour scheme for "Liv"?
Luca Nichetto: I believe that nature is always the best designer. A close friend of mine, the photographer Massimo Gardone, takes wonderful pictures of flowers. A few years ago and together with the Scandinavian Colour Institute, we developed a range of colours from his nature shots, on the basis of which we have been developing our designs ever since. For "Liv" we wanted the colour scheme to convey a sense of warmth which is why dark red and ochre tones feature heavily.
You have designed other pieces of furniture in addition to the sofa.
Luca Nichetto: Along with the upholstered elements, we have designed two tables that pick up on the sofa’s design vocabulary and materials. Our coffee table rests on a frame that is derived from the sofa’s supporting construction. A smaller side table, which also has a metal frame, adds a more playful note to the collection. I always try to enrich a large piece of furniture, such as the sofa in this case, with smaller designs that put a different spin on the design idea.
And the sofa itself can be enhanced with add-on elements.
Luca Nichetto: That’s right! You can enhance "Liv" with storage shelves. They can take the place of the armrest or the backrest. The insertion plates made of natural stone or glass – the same materials that we also use for the table tops – make the shelves visually appealing. These add-on elements create a space for your books, iPad or even your child’s dummy. With "Liv", it really was our intention to create a sofa system that can be tailored to almost every aspect of life.
Author: Fabian Peters, Stylepark
Picture gallery 1: James Stokes, Stylepark
Picture gallery 2,3,5: Sandro Jödicke, Whitedesk
Motive 1, picture gallery 4: Alexander Huber